With school beginning across the country within the next month, the back to school ads and excitement are rampant. And I find that most kids and parents are ready for the return of a regular schedule after the fun and crazy of the summer. Although, many will lament the loss of sleep due to early wake times, missing their pool time and general tiredness for the first couple of days or weeks.
Whether your child is starting their first day of kindergarten or their last year as a senior, there are things that we as parents can do to help them succeed.
Four Ways to Help Your Child Succeed
Feed your children at home.
Studies are very clear, children who eat home cooked meals are less likely to be overweight, have better mental health and are generally happier. And if money is a concern, cooking homemade meals is significantly cheaper than eating out all the time – just ask your wallet!
As easy as it is to check in with them when they get home, feed them dinner and then let them loose, it is important that you set boundaries for their down time. Limit their screen time. Encourage outside time. Give them responsibilities. On average, a child has 5 hours of free time between the time they arrive home and bed time. While some of that will be taken with activities, dinner and homework, help teach them to manage their time wisely by giving them responsibilities and set expectations.
Remember, bright screens can adversely affect sleep, no matter their age. Scientific American has a great piece on this back in 2013. Here is the relevant bit for you parents:
Mariana Figueiro of the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and her team showed that two hours of iPad use at maximum brightness was enough to suppress people’s normal nighttime release of melatonin, a key hormone in the body’s clock, or circadian system.
Source: Scientific American, 2013
So, this means not letting them spend too much time on their cell phone or and, if necessary getting a tracker to be sure they aren’t getting exposed to harmful content on their phone. A free phone tracker can help.
Talk to your children.
Let’s face it, this can be one of the hardest things to do, especially when your child gets into those teenage years where they know everything and you know nothing. But there are lots of resources to guide us as parents in being effective communicators specifically with our children:
- Don’t talk to much, learn to listen more. (Psychology Today)
- Guide versus direct. (Dr. Sears)
- Ask open ended questions rather than settling for yes and no responses. (Huffington Post)
Spend time with your child.
Between work and school and activities and life. The school year is when you have the least quality time with your child. And no, sitting at the table with your phone out or watching a TV show together does not quality as quality time. Schedule a one-on-one date at least once a month with each of your children. Block it out, talk about the special time, make it a priority. Put your phone away, tell everyone else you will be back and take your child out alone. Just he/her and you. It doesn’t have to cost money. Just your time and attention. Make it count by:
- Look at your child. Make eye contact, let them know that you are present and right there with them.
- Listen. Whatever they want to talk about, just listen. Don’t advise, don’t offer your two cents, just listen.
- Share. Tell them about what is going on your life. The parent child relationship is not a one way street. Be open with them (in an age appropriate manner.)
- Tell them how much you value you them. Praise the good you see.
Our children are our first priority. Whether that means working several jobs to support them or staying home to raise them, the requirements are the same, they need YOU, not your money, not more stuff. They need your time and attention.
Have you come up with any unique ways to spend time with your children during the busy school year? What about traditions that they will remember for the rest of their lives?